Tuesday, 29 April 2014

A cold Day for Murder

Dana Stabenow kicks off her long running series featuring Kate Shugak, a native detective in the frozen wilds of Alaska. The mystery is slight with much of the page count given over to developing the characters and establishing the close knit community. For such a short book it has a slow, some might say glacial pace that some will welcome if they're looking for a cosy few hours with crackling fires, plenty to drink and more culinary creations featuring moose than you could possibly eat. I'd drop it in the same sort of bracket as Craig Johnson's Walt Longmire books. Stabenow's own experience of growing up in Alaska are perhaps the main reason the books work so well, with the natural nostalgia and affection for the locale and its people coming through strongly and which no amount of research or googling could ever imitate. The lead character is a diminutive though fiery character, strong willed and forthright and if that doesn't scare the bejeebus out of every suspect, the half wolf half husky dog who follows her about everywhere she goes should finish the job. I had a few slight issues with her using randomly the first and second names of the characters to mark dialogue in the early chapters (bit confusing) but other than that early stumble I found the book very readable.                             

Thursday, 10 April 2014


The Nameless Detective series really hits its stride following up the superb Hoodwink with another great slice of noir. The book opens with Nameless getting down to a bit of jogging. The things folk will do for love. He's still going steady with Kerry and she's suggested he take some exercise to rid himself of some of his extra ampleness. Jogging isn't really his thing though, neither is healthy eating but he's desperate to please his girl. The relationship is heading into a fair bit of turbulance though. Spurred on by the green eyed monster Nameless turns up the pressure on Kerry to get married, which soon makes matters worse. Business is booming though and he soon has three supposedly routine jobs on the go. But the scattershot of the title is about to hit with a fusillade of bad luck that threatens to strip him of everything he loves. Nameless is a born worrier and this time he has plenty to worry about.
With his girlfriend giving him the cold shoulder Nameless sinks into a blue funk and turns to his other true love; the stories from his pulp magazines from titles like Double Detective, Dime Detective, Black Mask etc with classic pulp writers like Norbert Davis, Cornell Woolrich & Judson Philips. His choice of viewing for a four hour movie stint at the theatre is a pair of classic noir oldies - Murder, My Sweet with Dick Powell as Philip Marlowe & Out of the Past with Robert Mitchum - both of which featured in my own Christmas noir-fest of 2009.
Pronzini has delivered another of his superb page turners that serves up a trio of locked room mysteries, with varying degrees of cleverness both in the puzzles and the way Nameless attempts to solve them. Scattershot is also an essential title for those of us trying to read them in order to follow our hero's ongoing story. This one's a game changer.